Another True Story


My recent tale of the strange haunting of a Scottish wood reminded me of some stories my father told me of his time in Northern Ireland in the 1950s — stories which gave me nightmares when I was a child.


My father was enrolled in National Service back then, the compulsory two years served by young men in the Armed Forces after the war. He had selected ‘Air Force’ on the forms, and chosen somewhere adventurous like the Middle East as a proposed destination — and so the government machinery naturally assigned him to the Army in Northern Ireland. Though it was many years until the ‘Troubles’, Northern Ireland was still a divided land and a British Army garrison was maintained in order to ‘keep the peace’ between the warring Protestant and Catholic factions of the population.

I’ve tried to trace the exact camp to which he was sent, to no avail. He said that the camp was attached to an old house and that the place was known to be haunted: sentries reported regularly hearing footsteps and the swish of a long dress pass them by in dark corridors with no figure attached, or seeing a face in a window or other mysterious occurrences. Locals also relayed their experiences of shadowy figures and a mysterious stone, said to mark the burial spot of the old lady of the manor, who apparently had committed suicide and so couldn’t be buried in consecrated ground — this huge tombstone, they said, would inexplicably appear in a new position in the field where it lay, after each sighting of the lady’s restless spirit.

My father was sceptical, until one evening, as the men relaxed in their barracks playing cards, a locked locker door swung open and a crystal radio set being constructed by one of the men floated out from the upper shelf, six feet from the ground, before smashing to pieces on the floor.

The big event for my father, though, came one night when he was the assigned sentry for the barracks. The cook, rising early as was required, set about making preparations for breakfast at about 4:00 am. The rest of the tale was what he told my father afterwards…

As he arranged things in the mess, the cook glanced up and saw through the window a dark figure moving in the bushes opposite. Thinking that it was perhaps a soldier trying to get back into camp after hours, he thought nothing more of it — until, glancing up again, he saw the figure floating towards the window.

At the same moment, the pots and pans of the kitchen began flying around the room chaotically, banging and smashing into the walls and each other. The cook’s hair stood on end, and he burst screaming into the room where my father was on guard. He had to be given a tranquliser to calm him down.

He blubbered out his story, but never recovered and later had to be discharged from the Army on grounds of ‘nervous breakdown’. His hair had apparently turned white.

And, the locals alleged, the stone had shifted again…

I make no claims about this except to say that my father was no liar.

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